The Bartlett School of Planning


Hyunji Cho

Research subject

Thesis title: The Mechanism of Social Capital in the Participatory Planning with Diversity: The Foundation Phase of Community-led Regeneration of Seoul, South Korea

Primary supervisor: Dr Yasminah Beebeejaun
Secondary supervisor: Professor Mike Raco
Contact: hyunji.cho.14@ucl.ac.uk

This thesis aims at examining the construction of local communities in Korean planning system and marginalisation of immigrant groups from it. This study has a particular focus on mechanisms that were used to involve communities in planning to investigate how inclusion/exclusion of communities was formed. Many pointed out that current participatory planning often failed to engage local communities especially regarding so-called ‘hard-to-reach’ groups, such as ethnic minorities (Beebeejaun, 2006, 2012; Beebeejaun & Vanderhoven, 2010; Brownill & Carpenter, 2007; Coaffee & Healey, 2003; Fincher & Iveson, 2008; Vigar, Gunn, & Brooks, 2017). However, studies on how and why marginalisation occurred and which aspects in planning procedure made the involvement of certain immigrant groups more difficult are limited (see Beebeejaun, 2006). The case study in the neighbourhood, which had a significant Korean Chinese population, who shared ethnicity with Korean but was located in disadvantaged positions as low-income immigrant groups, will help us understand the complex dimensions of the unequal social status of the groups and its influence on the unequal participation. This paper is based on mixed methods research, including document analysis, social network analysis, non-participant observation, and in-depth interviews, in the Garibong-dong community-led regeneration project in Seoul, South Korea during the period 2015-2017.

To explore processes of participation, this thesis was designed to investigate how social capital is formed in neighbourhoods and how that social capital was operated in participatory planning. Particularly, the thesis integrates the concept of recognition within an analytical framework of social capital to investigate how wider social perception toward immigrant groups influence their access to social capital. By including the dimension of recognition, this study explores the marginalisation of immigrant groups in processes of building relationships within a consideration of how broader social exclusions related to the practices of everyday life.  

This framework explores several important questions regarding the formation of social capital in the context of heterogeneous urban communities. Researchers argued that social capital, which has developed in neighbourhoods, facilitated participatory planning by drawing voluntary participation through the networks. However, the social capital remained a highly contested concept by reason that the view overlooked the wider social structure in which the participants are located (Harriss, 2002; Portes, 1998). The actors in the previous social capital studied was frequently understood as atomised units based on the assumption that individual face-to-face contacting can build overall social trust. It similarly appeared in interethnic relationships by focusing on the barriers between the groups based on their cultural differences such as language skills and different cultural norms. However, it is still questionable whether the gap between different ethnic groups occurs only due to the cultural differences that the actors can overcome through individual contacts. Immigrant groups face wider limitations to approach mainstream societies by their legal, economic status, and social subordination based on the cultural understanding of their contested group identities. 

The findings show that the formation of social capital in participatory planning is highly influenced by the social positions of participants. This thesis aims at shedding new light on the value of social capital, which has a possibility to elucidate the complex mechanisms forming group boundaries among participants. Social capital forms in-group/out-group by building social trust/limiting the trust networks and reflects it to planning processes. The framework elucidates the formation of groups among local communities in the interplay between wider social structure and face-to-face interactions. The participants in participatory planning cannot be predicted by a pre-fixed understanding of ‘community’ in planning policies, or they cannot be understood by mere scaling up social interactions, in the sense of the frequency of encounters, from local neighbourhoods. The local participants produced the meaning of in-group and out-group relationships in the practice of participation. The processes involved judgements about each other as a social partner, and it was sometimes based on the embedded group identities of participants. The formation of networks and the mobilisation of them in planning procedure have been shown through the processes of social capital, and these processes deeply embed social recognition of participants.



Beebeejaun, Y. (2006). The participation trap: The limitations of participation for ethnic and racial groups. International Planning Studies, 11(1), 3–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/13563470600935008

Beebeejaun, Y. (2012). Including the excluded? Changing the understandings of ethnicity in contemporary english planning. Planning Theory & Practice, 13, 529–548.  https://doi.org/10.1080/14649357.2012.728005

Beebeejaun, Y., & Vanderhoven, D. (2010). Informalizing participation: Insights from chicago and johannesburg. Planning Practice & Research, 25(3), 283–296.  https://doi.org/10.1080/02697459.2010.503415

Brownill, S., & Carpenter, J. (2007). Participation and planning: Dichotomies, rationalities and strategies for power. Town Planning Review, 78(4), 401–428. https://doi.org/10.3828/tpr.78.4.2

Coaffee, J., & Healey, P. (2003). ‘My voice: My place’: Tracking transformations in urban governance. Urban Studies, 40(10), 1979–1999. https://doi.org/10.1080/0042098032000116077

Fincher, R., & Iveson, K. (2008). Planning and diversity in the city: Redistribution, recognition and encounter. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Harriss, J. (2002). Depoliticizing development: The world bank and social capital. London, UK: Anthem Press.

Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: Its origins and applications in modern sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.1

Vigar, G., Gunn, S., & Brooks, E. (2017). Governing our neighbours: Participation and conflict in neighbourhood planning. Town Planning Review, 88(4), 423–442.  https://doi.org/10.3828/TPR.2017.27


Hyunji is a planner and researcher in urban studies in the field of participatory planning and neighbourhood dynamics. Her interest is in community activism and the micro politics in the urban area including immigrant groups. Her PhD work is under the supervision of Dr Yasminah Beebeejaun and Professor Mike Raco.